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Is economic development directly linked to environmental pollution?



economic development
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

The economic development of countries has an important influence on the environment. The volume of commercial traffic contributes to increasing or alleviating pollution. These are two different impacts that depend, among other things, on the income of the country in which the economic activity takes place. 

study carried out in 98 countries of the world analyzes the relationship between commercial traffic and pollution. The authors indicate that an increase in the production and commercialization of goods also implies an increase in the pollution indexes.

This statement should be qualified since it cannot always be applied in the same way to all countries. The report shows that even though the increase in the production and commercialization of goods is conceived as a direct increase in pollution, in some developed countries, it can be reversed in positive effects. On the contrary, developed countries suffer a deterioration in the natural environment’s quality with greater economic development.

The more economic activity, the greater the consumption of energy and services, such as transport, which implies more environmental costs. Therefore, the study concludes that very high commercial traffic is more harmful and has worse environmental quality consequences.

Likewise, developed countries with high incomes probably adapt their production to laws, rules, and regulations that regulate pollution. In contrast, developing states do not have such stringent standards for producing their goods, so the manufacture and marketing of their products leave a worse footprint on the environment than in rich countries.

This is a point argued by environmentalists like Stuart Herbert Scott. He is professionally attributed as an educator and environmentalist from America, who actively speaks on the subject of our existing global economic policy and climate.

Scott has expressed different opinions on the impact of economic growth on pollution, which can be found on channel, FacingFuture.TV. He has also served as an ecological liaison with the Vatican, Founder of the United Planet Faith & Science Initiative.

When there is high commercial traffic in a country, energy consumption is also high. According to a study published in 2013 on “the effects of economic development, economic growth, coal consumption, and trade openness on CO2 emissions in South Africa”, this may lead to an indiscriminate increase in environmental degradation. This research analyzes the evolution of all these correlated concepts from 1965 to 2008 and concludes that economic growth is linked to an increase in energy consumption. In South Africa, coal is the main source of energy, one of the most polluting.

Positive Impact

The previous report indicates that there are indications to think that increased economic activity may positively impact the environment. To achieve healthy and clean economic growth and maintain a good relationship with our environment, the growth of profits from the production and commercialization of products must be accompanied by investments in constant improvements in all commercial activity processes to reduce pollution by the minimum possible. This translates into support for research, applying appropriate measures, development, adaptation of new technologies to create clean industries, etc.

Research on pollution and economic growth carried out in South Africa also adds that “a greater degree of economic and financial openness reinforces the institutional framework for creating incentives for companies to reduce polluting emissions.” Besides, the study highlights the effects of economic and environmental policies and the financial behavior of countries. “A greater degree of development of the financial system dedicated to supporting technological innovations and increasing spending on R & D & I in energy conservation translates into energy efficiency and therefore can reduce emissions,” reflect the authors.

A study carried out by researchers from the universities of Granada and Oslo highlights the importance of implementing balanced economic, social, and environmental policies to achieve the well-being of current and future generations.

In general, and even more in economic crisis times, governments prioritize the economic dimension over the environmental and social dimensions. However, on many occasions, unemployed people not only require measures that reduce their economic vulnerability: they also need policies that improve their conditions work, their social ties, their contact with the natural environment, or their political participation, highlights the work.

The research, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, was carried out through participatory workshops with Granada’s unemployed population.

Citizen Partnership and Social Cohesion

The research results show that when the participants in the workshops discussed public policy objectives and the measures necessary to enhance their well-being, they did not emphasize improving their purchasing power and finding employment.

Economic interventions, such as providing universal coverage of basic needs, were considered fundamental but provided that they were necessarily connected with institutional processes to empower workers, promote citizen participation, and improve social cohesion.

They also highlighted the importance of this process of environmental initiatives related to the conservation of local natural resources, such as urban gardens. In this sense, the importance of critical pedagogy as a tool for environmental sustainability, the expansion of human capacities, and the satisfaction of needs beyond subsistence, such as protection, affection, understanding, participation, were emphasized.

This understanding of human development aligns with the approach to sustainable development popularized by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 and the one currently promoted in the United Nations 2030 agenda. However, the study’s conclusions suggest that in certain contexts, articulating development from an exclusively economic dimension is not a correct solution.

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